N.W.T. could get RCMP unit dedicated to unsolved murder and missing person files

There are 71 unsolved cases of missing and murdered persons in the territory, and this year’s territorial budget proposes a unit to work solely on the cold cases.

Proposed N.W.T. budget sets aside $304,000 for an RCMP historical case unit

This year's proposed territorial budget includes $304,000 for a RCMP historical case unit, dedicated to the 71 unsolved historical murder and missing persons cases in the N.W.T. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

There are 71 unsolved, historical cases of missing and murdered persons in the Northwest Territories, and this year's territorial budget has proposed to create an RCMP unit dedicated to working on those files.

The unit would consist of three members who would work to organize, catalogue, and investigate cold cases of missing and murdered persons in the territory. These cases can include instances of suspicious deaths, unsolved homicides, missing persons and unidentified human remains.

Police say 63 of the cases are still open investigations, and some date back to 1985.

"The majority of the 63 open investigations into missing persons involve reports of persons wandered off, lost, or presumed drowned," said a spokesperson for the Department of Justice in an email.   

An advocate for Indigenous people, Gail Cyr, said she supports the idea of implementing the unit.

"Families of the Northwest Territories certainly do need to have support in knowing that the case involving their missing family member will be brought up and reviewed and they can be updated on what has been happening," said Cyr.  

The proposed territorial budget has $304,000 dedicated to creating and implementing the RCMP historical case unit.

'[RCMP] have to sit down and actually talk with the people that are going to be affected,' says Sandra Lockhart. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Sandra Lockhart, an advocate for Indigenous women in Yellowknife, said she supports the unit but wants to see it done the right way.

"It's vital," said Lockhart. "[But] they have to sit down and actually talk with the people that are going to be affected."

She wants the territorial government to speak with Indigenous people before implementing a program.

Currently the Major Crimes Unit is responsible for these files, but having a separate unit would mean having dedicated resources on the cases, according to the Department of Justice.

Some of the work would include making sure the cases were documented to current day standards, so the information is preserved.

The budget will be debated over the coming weeks.